Hillstone Burger at, well, Hillstone

“A hamburger by any other name costs twice as much.”  Evan Esar


Eatery:  Hillstone, 378 Park Avenue South, New York, NY

Hillstone is the Houston’s of the East Coast.  That is quite a broad statement based on my experience dining at Houston’s in various Los Angeles locations but, strictly speaking, it’s not actually true.  The two restaurants are affiliated and are each dotted across the country.  I’m not sure I completely understand the branding strategy (as, to me, they are virtually identical restaurants), but I’m not really writing this piece as part of my life as a strategic guru-ette.  Hillstone is reasonably close to the location of my day job, so I decided to pay it a visit. I also remember particularly enjoying the burgers at Houston’s when I lived in LA – that, though, might have been down to the martinis I generally enjoyed alongside the burgers.

The menu at Hillstone features two burger choices – the California Burger (the fancier selection, which includes jack cheese, avocado and arugula) and the Hillstone Burger, its humbler sibling offering only the basics (cheddar, tomato, lettuce, diced onion and pickles).  I like to at least start with the burger basics, so I ordered the Hillstone Burger.

Hillstone Burger (photo by MJ Byers)

When the meal arrives, I noticed there was ketchup on one side of the bun and mustard on the other.  I’m not sure this has any real culinary value, but was something of a treat for the eyes – it reminded me of good old-fashioned backyard barbeques, with their straightforward preparation and presentation of food.  In fact, so does the flavor of the burger – it has a quite grilled vs. meaty flavor.  Which is tasty in a nostalgic way, but isn’t necessarily what I love in my burgers today.  It must be said, though, that the diced onions kind of rocked.  Usually you get onions cut into slices and/or separated into rings with burgers, which has always been satisfactory.  But, somehow, the diced treatment adds a much more balanced note – allowing the essence to blend with and complement the other flavors vs. standing out in an onion-y way.  I have decided that this is how I will prepare my own at home going forward.  Unless I am too lazy to chop, in which case the quest for balanced flavor will be put on the shelf in the interest of having more free time to practice mixing martinis.

Overall ratings:

Destination Burger:  No.  But satisfying if you happen to be in the restaurant and fancy a burger.

Optional French Fry Rating: The side was potato strings, not fries.  I was not fond of these – due to thin slicing of the potatos, I found the fried-to-potato flavor ratio to be a bit out of balance.

Fat and Calorie Worthy:  Only if you’re planning on going jogging later in the day.

Today’s Weigh In:  There is now one pound less of me to love.

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